Rio de Janeiro is the cultural and tourist metropolis of Brazil and one of the most exciting cities in the world. Cidade maravilhosa (“Wonderful City”) is what Rio likes to be called. Even today, the metropolis is considered the secret capital of Brazil, although it has officially been Brasília since 1960.
Rio de Janeiro is a place full of contrasts: the modern city center with its skyscrapers is juxtaposed with the poor dwellings of the numerous favelas. And yet the inhabitants of Rio – called Cariocas – are united by their infectious and seemingly everlasting joie de vivre. Rio de Janeiro has six million inhabitants, making it the second largest city in the country.
Tip: 1: Christ the Redeemer
The Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) is – next to the Sugar Loaf – the most famous landmark of Rio de Janeiro. The statue of Christ is one of the largest art deco statues in the world and is located south of the city center on the 710 meter high Corcovado Mountain, in the middle of the beautiful Tijuca National Park.
The statue was built to properly celebrate the centenary of the independence of the Republic of Brazil from Portugal (Prince Regent Dom Pedro declared the country independent on September 7, 1822, but Portugal did not accept this until three years later). Delays then finally led to the solemn inauguration in Rio de Janeiro on October 12, 1931.
Although there are numerous statues of Christ around the world, none can match the fame of Cristo Redentor in Rio. If you are in Brazil, a visit is an absolute must.
The ride up on the Trem de Corcovado (a rack railroad) is the choice of most visitors. The train runs about every half hour and takes you up Corcovado in just under 20 minutes.
From the top you have a wonderful view over Rio de Janeiro on a clear day. You can see the southern districts of Copacabana and Ipanema, as well as the Maracanã Stadium and Sugarloaf Mountain.
Tip 2: Sugarloaf Mountain
The 396-meter-high Sugarloaf Mountain is – along with the Cristo Redentor statue of Christ – one of the landmarks of Rio de Janeiro and one of the most popular sights in Brazil.
Viewed from the top of Pão de Açúcar, you will see why Rio is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. A visit to Sugarloaf is definitely a must on your Brazil trip. The view at sunset is the most beautiful.
Sugarloaf belongs to the Urca district, a peninsula in the southeast of Rio de Janeiro. It is located at the western entrance of the bay Baía de Guanabara.
The government district of Flamengo and the Botafogo neighborhood are located north of Sugarloaf.Nearby is the famous Praia Vermelha (Red Beach).
The cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain, officially known in Portuguese as Teleférico do Pão de Açúcar, is usually affectionately referred to simply as “O Bondinho” (German: das Bähnchen). The first cable car was put into operation in 1912/13. Due to a sharp rise in passenger numbers and increased safety requirements, the decision was made in 1972 to build a completely new cable car.
The ride to the top in the glassed-in gondolas of the cable car takes place in two sections. First, it goes from Praça General Tibúrcio to the first mountain, Morro da Urca, and from there up to Sugar Loaf Mountain by another cable car. One gondola can carry up to 65 people.
Tip 3: Maracana Stadium
The famous Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro is not only the largest soccer stadium in Brazil, it is also the place where the final of the 2014 World Cup was held in July 2014. After several renovations, the arena can accommodate nearly 78,800 spectators.
Officially, it is actually called Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, a name introduced in the mid-1960s in memory of sports journalist Mário Filho.
The Estádio do Maracanã is home to the well-known soccer clubs CR Flamengo and Fluminense FC from Rio. The Brazilian national soccer team also regularly plays its home games here.
The Maracanã is located in the east of Rio de Janeiro, just over 10 km from Copacabana and the city center.
The Estádio Municipal do Maracanã was built for the World Cup in 1950. After its first completion, the stadium had gigantic dimensions and could accommodate up to 200,000 people.
Maracanã Stadium achieved legendary status in the 1950 World Cup final, with the Brazilians’ decisive match against Uruguay going down in history as the “Maracanaço.” The Seleção lost 1-2 to Uruguay, which remains a footballing trauma in Brazil’s history to this day.
Until the 1990s, hardly any changes were made to the Maracanã Stadium. After a fatal accident in 1992, remodeling work was undertaken. All standing room was removed and the capacity was reduced from 200,000 to 73,500 spectators. For the 2014 World Cup, the Maracanã was again rebuilt and modernized.
Tip 4: Escadaria Selaron
A popular tourist attraction in Rio is the Escadaría Selarón in Lapa, created by Chilean artist Jorge Selarón.
Over 2000 tiles were used in a colorful, steep staircase.
In 1990, Chilean artist Jorge Selarón began on his own initiative to repair or beautify the battered steps of the staircase near his home and studio.
What was initially smiled at and skeptically eyed by the neighborhood, developed over the years more and more into a (tourist) attraction. This went so far that in 2005 the staircase was finally honored by the city as one of Rio’s landmarks. It was also honored in the bid for the 2016 Olympics.
Today, it is part of the standard sightseeing program of many tours and everyone likes to have their picture taken on it.
The 125-meter-long staircase has 250 steps that connect the popular nightlife district of Lapa with the Santa Teresa artists’ district above and the Santa Teresa Convent.
Tip 5: Copacabana
The name Copacabana is known worldwide. The district in the south of Rio de Janeiro owes its fame above all to its beach, which is almost 4 kilometers long.
It is framed by the Urubu and Leben hills and the deep blue sea. Along the Avenida Atlântica running to the beach and in the side streets there are numerous hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
On Copacabana beach, it’s see and be seen. Well-trained bodies, minimalist swimwear and a colorful mix of locals and tourists make for a hustle and bustle every day.
The beach is wide and offers plenty of space for sports activities. Soccer, beach volleyball or fitness – if that seems too strenuous, you can just watch.
Copacabana gained its worldwide fame in the 1920s. At that time gambling was legalized in Brazil and in a very short time some of the most popular casinos were established here.
This and the opening of the luxury hotel Copacabana Palace also attracted numerous stars from show business and other beautiful and rich people, who now liked to spend their vacations here. Marlene Dietrich, Eva Perón and even once John F. Kennedy enjoyed the great life in Rio de Janeiro at that time.